Is your teen sexting?
By Kidspot Team |
Is your teen sexting?
Sexting refers to taking nude (or semi-nude) photos or videos that are intentionally provocative or sexual and sending the pictures via mobile phone or internet. Both adults and teens sext. And while adults seem to have significant and highly public problems with sexting, it seems that it is primarily seen as a young person’s problem.

How often does sexting occur?

Research indicates that between 20 percent and 33 percent of adolescents and young-adults aged 13-24 have posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves. Other estimates suggest that 4 percent of teens (aged 12-17) have sent “sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of themselves to someone else via text messaging”, and 15 percent said they had received such messages.

What are the consequences of sexting?

The primary concern centres around harm to the reputations (particularly for girls) who are involved in sexting. There is a very real threat that when adolescent relationships break down (as most inevitably will), private images may be shared widely and publicly as an attempt to exact revenge on the scorned lover. A study by technology security company McAfee found that the sharing of private images is rampant once relationships rupture.
 
A further concern is that images can be accessed by those with disturbing motives.
 
In addition to the risk to digital reputation, recent studies have linked sexting to ‘high risk’ sex practices.

How do I talk to my teen about this?

There are two central things to focus on with teens around sexting issues.
 
We need to know how our teens feel about this issue. How do we find out? We can read reports like the Young People and Sexting (2013) report written in Australia. And we can ask them ourselves. What we’ll likely find is that they think it’s normal to send pictures, it develops trust in a relationship, and they feel that as long as it’s consensual everything’s fine.
If you disagree, being disagreeable will be ineffective. So the second thing to do when talking with your teen about the issue is to ask questions – and lots of them. Ask about experiences their friends have had with sexting. Find out whether they feel private images of their own might be shared if they ever sent them. Ask them how they would feel if things got out of hand, and if their image ended up being shared. Find out what they would do if someone posted the link to Tumblr, Twitter, or any other social media platform.

Sexting solutions

If you discover sexts in your child’s phone or email, you simply have to have that talk. Launching a scare campaign, confiscating devices, or threatening consequences will generally drive sexting behaviour underground. Instead, discussions like those outlined above, emphasising consequences of breaches of trust, legal consequences, digital reputation (and real reputation) are more likely to impact on behaviour – particularly if your skilled questioning and listening allows your teen to develop answers him or herself.
 
There are some practical things you should encourage your teen to do as well:
 
  • STOP. It really is dangerous.
  • Remove any and all risqué pictures from all devices.
  • Communicate with others who have images of you and ask them to remove them. (Do it digitally so there is evidence of the request.)
  • Google yourself from time to time to make sure you’re not showing up anywhere you shouldn’t in ways you shouldn’t.

Wrap up

It only takes a few seconds to create an image that gets shared enough to ruin a reputation. Talk with your teen about it.
 
  • This article was written for Kidspot and is based on an article originally posted by Dr Justin Coulson on parenting.kidspot.com.au

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